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Looking Back on 2017: Best Milwaukee Brewers Pitching Performances

2017 was filled with some strong pitching performances as several members of the staff stepped up.

MLB: San Diego Padres at Milwaukee Brewers Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Entering the 2017 season, there were a lot of variables on the pitching staff. We didn’t know if the staff would step up or struggle through the season. Though some pitchers did have bad years, several stepped up in this surprise year of contention. Here are some of the Brewers top performances from 2017.

April 12: Chase Anderson @ Blue Jays (2-0 Win)
7 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 7 K (76 GS, +.481 WPA)

Entering the season, the Brewers weren’t sure what they would get from the starting rotation. This was the first start where the starting pitchers showed some promise, and the first one came from Chase Anderson. Fighting to ensure he would be secured a rotation spot, he had a strong appearance in his second start. He pitched seven innings and struck out seven as the Brewers fought out a 2-0 win.

May 27: Chase Anderson vs. Diamondbacks (6-1 Win)
7 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 11 K (83 GS, +.327 WPA)

It’s been 30 years since the Brewers have had a pitcher record a no-hitter, and the streak continued through this year. However, on this day, Chase Anderson flirted with becoming the second pitcher in franchise history to record the feat. He was absolutely on fire in this start, striking out 11 through seven innings and not allowing a hit. There was some concern about his pitch count as it went over 110 and if it would be safe for him to keep going. It ended up being a moot point in the eighth, as Anderson allowed a hit to the first batter of the inning. He was taken out of the game after that, though his strong start was one of the best in 2017.

June 1: Chase Anderson @ Mets (2-1 Win)
7 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 7 K (77 GS, +.442 WPA)

After his no-hit bid, all eyes were on Chase Anderson to see how he would follow-up that performance. He didn’t disappoint, putting together another seven shutout inning day. While it wasn’t as dramatic as the no-hitter, it was just as effective, helping the Brewers in a low-offense day to get a 2-1 win.

June 2: Jimmy Nelson vs. Dodgers (1-2 Loss)
8 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 11 K (83 GS, +.574 WPA)

Only one pitcher in the Brewers rotation pitched eight or more innings in a start this season. That pitcher was Jimmy Nelson. The first of his two 8+ inning starts came on June 2 against the Dodgers. He struck out 11 in the game as he pitched eight innings. Unfortunately, the Brewers couldn’t capitalize and lost the game.

June 9: Corey Knebel @ Diamondbacks (8-6 Win)
1.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 K (+.167 WPA)

There were several times in 2017 where Corey Knebel was called upon to get multiple-inning saves and lock down a win. June 9 was one of those days, as the Brewers were in danger of letting a lead get away as Knebel was called into the game. Knebel ensured that wouldn’t happen, stranding a runner at third to end the eighth and then pitching a perfect ninth to end the game.

June 18: Jimmy Nelson vs. Padres (2-1 Win)
CG, 6 H, 1 R (0 ER), 2 BB, 10 K (81 GS, +.580 WPA)

Many special memories have been made by the Brewers on Mother’s Day. This time, it was Father’s Day that got the attention with a special performance. Coming off of his eight-inning start, Jimmy Nelson took no chances in this one and did it all on the pitching side himself. He allowed just one run on the day, and it was an unearned run. He struck out 10+ batters for the second straight start as he recorded the Brewers only complete game of the season.

July 3: Brent Suter vs. Orioles (8-1 Win)
6 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 8 K (69 GS, +.112 WPA)

When Chase Anderson went on the disabled list, the Brewers needed someone to step up and fill the spot. Brent Suter came up for his second start of the season, and immediately made his case to hold down one of those spots in the rotation. While it wasn’t all needed that day, Suter pitched six innings and allowed just one run in his return to the rotation.

July 15: Corey Knebel vs. Phillies (3-2 Win)
1.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 K (+.167 WPA)

While this save wasn’t exactly an out-of-the-ordinary one, it was an important one for another reason. This was Knebel’s 45th straight game to start the season with a strikeout, setting a new MLB record. The streak would officially end in Knebel’s next game against the Pirates, where he did not record a strikeout. Unfortunately, it ended four short of the MLB record for consecutive games with a strikeout, which Aroldis Chapman holds (49 games, August 21, 2013 to August 13, 2014).

July 25: Zach Davies @ Nationals (8-0 Win)
7.2 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 7 K (77 GS, +.227 WPA)

When the offense and pitching are working on the same day, it’s a very satisfying feeling. There’s no doubt on how the game will go and it’s just a relaxing game to watch. Davies helped accomplish that in this start, pitching 7.2 innings of three-hit baseball, striking out seven in the process.

July 28: Brent Suter vs. Cubs (2-1 Win)
7 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 1 B, 5 K (73 GS, +.423 WPA)

As Suter continued his stay in the starting rotation, he provided some unexpected value to the pitching staff. This was another strong one for the starting rotation, as Suter pitched seven innings in a close game.

July 29: Josh Hader vs. Cubs (1-2 Loss)
3 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 6 K (+.215 WPA)

When Josh Hader was on his game in 2017, he was nearly impossible to hit. The Cubs found that out on this day, as he was called upon to hold the Cubs in check. He did it with a three-inning appearance, recording six of his nine outs via strikeouts. In addition, he only allowed two baserunners in that appearance. Unfortunately, the Brewers couldn’t get the win to take full advantage of another strong appearance.

August 5: Zach Davies @ Rays (3-0 Win)
7 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 2 K (75 GS, +.493 WPA)

While a one-hitter doesn’t look as impressive as a no-hitter, Zach Davies did his best to make it look good. Though he only struck out two, he still got through seven innings, allowing just three baserunners and keeping more off the bases. It was proof that strikeouts aren’t always needed for a start to be a good one.

August 12: Josh Hader vs. Reds (6-5 Win)
3 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 5 K (+.256 WPA)

After five innings, the Brewers were down 5-4 heading into the sixth inning. The Brewers called on Josh Hader to come in and keep the team in the game. He did an excellent job holding the Reds off the board, pitching three strong innings and allowing just three baserunners in those innings. It allowed the Brewers to get back into the game, tying the score at 5-5 and allowing Corey Knebel to come in.

August 12: Corey Knebel vs. Reds (6-5 Win)
2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 K (+.283 WPA)

After Hader kept the Reds in check, Corey Knebel came in to continue to keep the Brewers in a 5-5 tie. He pitched a clean ninth, but the Brewers couldn’t capitalize in the bottom of the inning and the game went into extra innings. Knebel continued into the 10th, allowing just a hit to keep the score tied at 5-5. The Brewers would then win in the bottom of the tenth on a wild pitch, which was only possible after five shutout innings from the bullpen.

August 26: Zach Davies @ Dodgers (3-0 Win)
7 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 7 K (78 GS, +.436 WPA)

While Zach Davies may look more like a bat boy than a professional pitcher, he can pitch just as well as any other pitcher in the league on his best days. It was another shutout day for the pitchers, and Zach Davies led the charge. He struck out seven in Los Angeles, allowing just three hits in a successful late-season start.

September 1: Jimmy Nelson, Josh Hader, Corey Knebel vs. Nationals (1-0 Win)
Nelson: 7 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 11 K (79 GS, +.472 WPA)
Hader: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 K (+.123 WPA)
Knebel: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 3 K (+.167 WPA)

As the season progressed, this three-headed beast was one that no team wanted to face. Not only did the Brewers have Jimmy Nelson to lead the charge for the team, they also had Josh Hader and Corey Knebel on the back end to close it out. When the three parts could work one after the other, they were near unstoppable. On this day in September, they showed just how good they can be.

Nelson was building on his strong season entering the month of September, as he was starting to become the home-grown ace that the Brewers needed. With the Brewers fighting for the playoffs, Nelson started off the month of September with a gem, pitching seven innings and striking out 11 as the Brewers squeaked out a 1-0 win.

Of course, with the Brewers offense struggling, the bullpen had to keep the Nationals in check, and they complied. Josh Hader was up first and made it look easy, striking out the side on 12 pitches. Corey Knebel followed in the ninth, and even though he allowed a walk, he also struck out the side to end the game.

September 2: Brandon Woodruff vs. Nationals (2-3 Loss)
7 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 8 K (76 GS, +.328 WPA)

At the start of September, Brandon Woodruff returned to the rotation after a week and a half in the minors. With the Brewers needing to fill starts through the end of the year, Woodruff was called upon to start against the Nationals. He proved his value in this start, pitching seven strong innings against the Nationals with eight strikeouts, a season high for him. Unfortunately, the Brewers couldn’t capitalize on the start as they fell behind and lost the game.

September 19: Chase Anderson, Anthony Swarzak, Corek Knebel @ Pirates (1-0 Win)
Anderson: 6 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 8 K
Swarzak: 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K
Knebel: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 K

The Brewers pitchers had one more gem in them in 2017, as they needed a good performance to keep them in the playoff race. While it wasn’t a start that would stand out on the stat sheets, it was very effective. Anderson started it off with six shutout innings, allowing five hits but striking out eight. Anthony Swarzak and Corey Knebel followed it up out of the bullpen. Swarzak took two innings and was very clean, needing just 18 pitches for the two frames. Knebel then finished it up on 10 pitches to end the game and lock down another win.

Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference